HAMMOND — Baby Grace is the light of the Melgoza family. The now 18-month-old was adopted by Jennifer and Mario Melgoza when she was just one month old.
For the Hammond, Indiana couple, it was a years-long journey — after learning they could not have kids — before their family was complete.
“Our life went from just us and a couple dogs to a whole family,” Jennifer said.
Safe Haven Baby Box #12 is in Hammond and it's where Baby Grace was surrendered in September 2019.
“I looked into it [the story] and I was like, 'wow that’s awesome.' I told my husband, I go, ‘Hey maybe we were having such a hard time because she wasn’t here yet. Maybe she’s our baby,’” Jennifer recalled.
The Melgoza family journey does not stop here. Now, Jennifer said they are dedicated to bringing awareness to Safe Haven Baby Boxes.
“It is a great day when a baby is saved, but that’s really when our work starts happening, and that’s really when your feet hit the ground,” Monica Kelsey, Safe Haven Baby Boxes founder and CEO, said.
Exactly five years ago on Monday, the first baby box in the U.S. was installed at the Woodburn City Fire Department.
Today, there are more than 60 baby boxes in multiple states with more than 50 right here in Indiana. The organization has helped with nearly 100 surrenders.
“A lot of people think I’m just going around and putting boxes in buildings and hoping women show up, but it’s beyond the box,” Kelsey said.
Safe Haven Baby Boxes provides resources outside of just the physical baby box, like the 24-hour hotline, training of first responders, and offering financial help to mothers in need. Earlier this year, the organization celebrated its seventh adoption.
“My goal for Safe Haven Baby Boxes is to be where we need to be. Not just in the states that aren’t seeing a lot of abandonments because we do need to be there, but we need to be where these babies are being left,” Kelsey said.
Long-term, the goal is to have a baby box in all 50 states by 2025.
“People need to know these boxes are there and they work, and they save lives and they help build families and they make a world a better place,” Jennifer said.
Kelsey recently wrote a book on her personal journey, which will be out on May 1st.
For those in need of resources, please reach out to shbb.org or call 1-866-99BABY1 at any time.